All About Rotary
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PROGRAMS

The programs of Rotary are so diverse as to all but defy categorization. In addition, there are the programs of The Rotary Foundation, which include educational, humanitarian and fellowship and vocational exchanges.

Interact

Interact is Rotary International’s service club for young people ages 12 to 18. Interact clubs are sponsored by individual Rotary clubs, which provide support and guidance, but they are self-governing and self-supporting.

Club membership varies greatly. Clubs can be single gender or mixed, large or small. They can draw from the student body of a single school or from two or more schools in the same community. Each year, Interact clubs complete at least two community service projects, one of which furthers international understanding and goodwill. Through these efforts, Interactors develop a network of friendships with local and overseas clubs and learn the importance of: developing leadership skills and personal integrity, demonstrating helpfulness and respect for others, understanding the value of individual responsibility and hard work and advancing international understanding and goodwill.

The first Interact Club met with 23 students at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Florida in 1960. It has since become one of the most significant and fastest-growing programs of Rotary service; with more than 12,300 clubs in 133 countries and geographical areas, Interact has become a worldwide phenomenon. Almost 290,000 young people are involved in Interact.

PolioPlus

The most notable current global project, PolioPlus, is contributing to the global eradication of polio. Since beginning the project in 1985, Rotarians have contributed over US$850 million and tens of thousands of volunteer-hours, leading to the inoculation of more than two billion of the world's children. Inspired by Rotary's commitment, the World Health Organization (WHO) passed a resolution in 1988 to eradicate polio by 2000. Now a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) with WHO, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary is recognized by the United Nations as the key private partner in the eradication effort.

In 2008, Rotary received a $100 million challenge grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Rotary committed to raising $100 million. In January 2009, Bill Gates announced a second challenge grant of $255 million. Rotary again committed to raising another $100 million. In total, Rotary will raise $200 million by June 30, 2012. Together, the Gates Foundation and Rotary have committed $555 million toward the eradication of polio. At the time of the second challenge grant, Bill Gates said:

"We know that it’s a formidable challenge to eradicate a disease that has killed and crippled children since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. We don’t know exactly when the last child will be affected. But we do have the vaccines to wipe it out. Countries do have the will to deploy all the tools at their disposal. If we all have the fortitude to see this effort through to the end, then we will eradicate polio."

There has been some limited criticism concerning the program for polio eradication. There are some reservations regarding the adaptation capabilities of the virus in some of the oral vaccines, which have been reported to cause infection in populations with low vaccination coverage. As stated by Vaccine Alliance, however, in spite of the limited risk of polio vaccination, it would neither be prudent nor practicable to cease the vaccination program until there is strong evidence that "all wild poliovirus transmission [has been] stopped". In a recent speech at the Rotary International Convention, held at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Bruce Cohick stated that polio in all its known wild forms will be eliminated by late 2008, provided efforts in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India all proceed with their current momentum.

Exchanges and Scholarships

Some of Rotary's most visible programs include the Rotary Youth Exchange, a student exchange program for students in secondary education, and the Rotary Foundation's oldest program, Ambassadorial Scholarships. Today, there are six different types of Rotary Scholarships. More than 38,000 men and women from 100 nations have studied abroad under the auspices of Ambassadorial Scholarship, and today it is the world's largest privately funded international scholarships program. In 2006-07 grants totaling approximately US$15 million were used to award some 800 scholarships to recipients from 69 countries who studied in 64 nations. The Exchange Students of Rotary Club Munich International publish their experiences on a regular basis on Rotary Youth Exchange with Germany. In July 2009 the Rotary Foundation ended funding for the Cultural and Multi-Year Ambassadorial Scholarships as well as Rotary Grants for University Teachers.

Rotary Fellowships, paid by the foundation launched in honor of Paul Harris in 1947, specialize in providing graduate fellowships around the world, usually in countries other than their own in order to provide international exposure and experience to the recipient.

A new program was established known as the Rotary peace and Conflict Resolution program which provides funds for two years of graduate study in one of eight universities around the world. Rotary is naming about seventy five of these scholars each year. The applications for these scholarships are found on line but each application must be endorsed by a local Rotary Club. Children and other close relatives of Rotarians are not eligible.

Rotary Centers for International Studies

Starting in 2002, The Rotary Foundation partnered with eight universities around the world to create the Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution. The universities include International Christian University (Japan), University of Queensland (Australia), Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) (France), University of Bradford (United Kingdom), Universidad del Salvador (Argentina), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (U.S.), Duke University (U.S.), Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) and University of California, Berkeley (U.S.) Since then, the Rotary Foundation's Board of Trustees has dropped its association with the Center in France at the Paris Institute of Political Studies and is currently ending its association with the University of California, Berkeley.

Rotary World Peace Fellows complete two year masters level programs in conflict resolution, peace studies, and international relations. The first class graduated in 2004. As with many such university programs in "peace and conflict studies", questions have been raised concerning political bias and controversial grants. As of August 2006, the Rotary Foundation had spent $18 million on its "peace and conflict" Centers, and the average grant was about $60,000 per enrollee in the two-year program.

In 2004, Fellows established the Rotary World Peace Fellows Association to promote interaction among Fellows, Rotarians, and the public on issues related to peace studies.

Literacy Programs

Rotaries worldwide place a focus on increasing literacy. Such importance has been placed on literacy that Rotary International has created a “Rotary Literacy Month” that takes place during the month of March.

Rotary clubs also aim to conduct many literacy events during the week of September 8, which is International Literacy Day.

Some Rotary clubs raise funds for schools and other literacy organizations. Many clubs take part in a reading program called "Rotary Readers," in which a Rotary member spends time in a classroom with a designated student, and reads one-on-one with them. As well as raising funds and reading with children, some Rotary clubs participate in book donations, both locally and internationally.

Rotaract

Rotaract: a service club for young men and women aged 18 to 30 with around 185,000 members in 7,000 clubs in 163 countries. Rotaract clubs are either community or university based, and they are sponsored by a local Rotary club. This makes them true "partners in service" and key members of the family of Rotary.

Rotary Community Corps

The Rotary Community Corps (RCC) is a volunteer organization with an estimated 157,000 non-Rotarian men and women in over 6,800 communities in 78 countries.

Individual Club Efforts

While there are numerous Rotary-wide efforts, Rotary clubs are also encouraged to take part in local ventures; In a more unusual twist, Rosalie Maguire, a Batavia, New York, Rotarian, taking a cue from Calendar Girls convinced fellow members (a man for each month and a male cover) to pose for a "nude" calendar sold as part of a $250,000 fundraiser for a local hospital. Members are occasionally assessed mock "fines" for minor infractions as a way of raising funds: these fines could, in 1951, range from 10 cents to $1,000. Some clubs have "Happy Dollars" or "Happy Bucks" which include paying a dollar for the right to tell a story to the club.

Weekly Club Meetings

Rotary Clubs usually meet weekly at a set location and time and are an opportunity for Rotarians (members) and visitors to enjoy a meal together, discuss community affairs, engage in networking, and socialize. Most of the original Rotary clubs met at lunchtime (midday), but evening/dinner clubs became popular in many countries, and beginning in the 1970s, a number of Rotary clubs were started as breakfast clubs.

Meetings are led by the club president and usually start with the ringing of a bell. Some clubs continue the tradition of group singing, with members singing patriotic, local theme, holiday-theme, and/or Rotary-specific theme songs. Many clubs have a group prayer, invocation, or thought for the day, followed by a meal. Announcements about upcoming activities are typical of these meetings, and in some clubs, members contribute money to the club service fund by way of "fines" for accomplishments or special occasions. Most clubs have a featured speaker, usually a guest, and quite frequently, a prominent figure, government official, or interesting personality. The president usually closes the meeting with a final ringing of the bell. A long-standing Rotary tradition is to encourage all members to attend meetings every week, or at least as often as possible.

Rotarians get credit for attending meetings of other clubs (called "make-ups") at any time during the week preceding or following the missed meeting of his/her own club. When traveling, Rotarians will often exchange miniature club banners with the presidents of the clubs being visited.